Sunday, February 24

Raising Little Helpers: Teaching them to do it

It's no secret that I have high expectations for my kids.  Realistic, but high.  I expect that my children help with household chores and responsibilities on a daily basis.  With my husband deployed, my boys really are helping a lot. They've taken up some of the chores that my husband usually does. But they always have and always will help around our home.  

The boys are six and nine years old but have helped with "clean up" since they could walk.  Now, they have daily chore lists that alternate on a weekly basis.  I have created a green chore list and blue chore list.  Each Sunday they switch lists.  One is mostly garbage focused (daily trash removal, recycling disposal & weekly trash to the curb) and one is laundry focused (sorting, starting, switching and folding) - our two biggest chores.  One list has sweeping, the other has vacuuming.  One has dusting and wiping counter, the other has mirrors and glass cleaning.  When I was creating their lists, I felt by separating and focusing the lists, it gave them a chance to learn different chores and not get bored with doing the same chores every week.  (Specific chores for each list are at the bottom of this post.)

But how do I get them to do it "right"?  That's the trick, isn't it? The answer: teaching & guiding them through the steps.  And then reassuring them that they are capable and able to do it.  There are many stages to helping with chores and they are each in various stages with each specific chore.

Step One: Watch me do it. 
Like most things in life, we simply learn by exposure.  When the boys were about 3-4 years old, I would have them watch me do a chore, talking about what I was doing as I did it.  "We make sure when we're sweeping we get into the corners under the cabinets."  They get to witness the "right" way to do it without the pressure to get it right the first time.

Step Two: Help me do it.
After watching me a few times, I'd ask for their help.  If we were sweeping, they would hold the dustpan.  If we're cleaning mirrors, they get to spray the towel.  This got them involved in the process.

Step Three: I help them do it.
When they had been helping a few weeks with the chore and seem to understand all the parts of the chore, they got to be the leader in the chore.  This allowed me to be along side them, but they got to "be the boss" and ask me to do the helping, rather than the leading.  I made sure I was in the room, participating with them while they were in this stage.

Step Four: I supervise while they do it.
During this stage, I stand aside and they complete the chore without my help.  I am just there to make sure the details get done and they are being through.  For some chores, this stage lasts a long time. A. Very. Long. Time.

Step Five: I check their work when complete.
This is the stage my older son is at for most of his responsibilities.  He completes all his daily chores and tells me when they are complete.  I then go through and check to make sure they were done well.  Very rarely are they to my standards, but I have to remind myself he's only nine years old (and that I'm a perfectionist).  I try to overlook the little things and pay attention to if he really put in the effort or not.  Occasionally he will have to redo a chore, but if we spent enough time on stages three and four, there are fewer "do overs".

This stage is a gentle balance between my son's self-esteem and learning how to do things correctly.  If something does need redone, but it doesn't warrant a "do over" I try to do the work on my own, after my son has left the area or gone to bed for the night.  I don't want him to feel that he can never please his mother or that nothing is good enough for me.

Step Six: Teach how to recognize when a chore needs done.
This is the hardest stage for me.  I can see when things need done, and just do them, or ask one of the boys to do them.  But, when I allow for this stage to really take hold, my children learn better.  Rather than just reminding them it's been awhile since we did a chore, I'll ask them to look over the chore list and see what needs done.  It's inevitable that they will not see all that I see, but they are able to recognize a few items at least.

Payton, who is nine, is at stage five with most of his responsibilities, though he still requires help with putting new sheets on his bed (stage three).  I expect it to be like this for sometime as some things are just easier with help.  Maxwell, who just turned six, is between stages three and five with his chores.  Some I have to help with (sweeping into the dustpan is hard for him), while others he's able to do and I can just check him (dusting furniture).

Also, I try to lead by example.  Just like my children, I have a list of things that need done each day.  It hangs on my refrigerator just feet above their lists. I am responsible for the bathroom, the stove top, refrigerator and daily maintenance of a clean home. I also keep my monthly reminders on that list; clean the dishwasher, clean the washing machine, change the furnace filter, wipe the fan blades, etc.

This system was adapted from something I read several years ago, though I'm not sure of the source.  It has really helped me to see where they need my help and make sure that my expectations weren't further along than they were ready for.  I'm not rushing them and we can work together as long as needed. 

Through the process they have learned how to become more responsible family members and the stress of all the household work is off my shoulders.  I really am pleased with the results.

What do you do in your house?  Do you rotate chore lists between kids or are they assigned the same chores each day?  What kinds of chores are on your kids' lists?

Next Post:  Raising Little Helpers: "Why do I have to help?"

Both boys daily lists
: make bed, clothes into hamper, brush teeth (twice), complete all schoolwork/homework, put away all clean/folded laundry, clean up playroom toys

Blue Chore List: feed/water dog breakfast, indoor trash to the cans, trash & recycling to the curb, retrieve trash & recycling, dust blinds and wood furniture, sweep floors, put sheets back on the beds, set table for meals

Green Chore List: feed/water dog dinner, sort laundry/switch to dryer/fold (with mom's help), vacuum floors, wipe down mirrors & windows, wipe baseboards & vacuum edges, wipe switch plates, counter tops & doorknobs, clear table after meals

**Not all chores are performed on a daily basis.  Some are several times a week and some are only once a week.  

Monday, February 18

Oh it's been so long...

There is no way to begin to update you on the things that have happened since the last post nearly 8 months ago.

This past year was full of changes.  Matt is currently deployed to a far off desert place.  I left my job in the fall and this year has been spent homeschooling the boys.  We've had quite a bit of illness and injury with our parents this year. Thankfully, with our homeschooling, we've been able to travel between the homes and help out as needed.

The boys are big and adorable.  Maxwell just turned six and Payton is approaching his double-digits with fury.  They keep me busy, but so very happy.

I'm going to try blogging again.  I have so many things on my mind and in my heart, especially regarding the homeschooling.  I feel like I need a place to put it all...hopefully this works (again).

Saturday, June 16

Growing Stuff

This year, I finally determined the perfect place for a vegetable garden!  Matt built a raised bed for me and I had quite a bit planted before the middle of May!  It's about 40' long and about 4' wide.  We've planted tomatoes, beans, snap peas, english peas, beets, lettuces, cucumbers, squashes, zucchinis, peppers, carrots and a few herbs.  So far things have been growing really well.  I am really happy with it and I can't wait to see how things turn out as the summer goes on.  Here are some pictures of how it looks today.

School's Out for Summer!!

Another fantastic school year has come to an end.  We are so proud of all of our accomplishments this year.

Maxwell has been homeschooled by Matt and our "babysitter", Ms. Liz.  He is able to identify all his uppercase and lowercase letters, knows their sounds, and can write most of them from memory (still working on a few lowercase letters).  He is also reading most 3-4 letter words!!  He's really excited about the summer reading program at the library so he can become a better reader.

Payton finished a super year in third grade at a new school.  The transition was perfect for him and he couldn't be happier.  He finished the year with straight A's - a personal goal he set for himself.  AND the last day of school it was announced he was elected a fourth grade student representative to the student council!  He couldn't stop smiling!

My third year teaching also finished strong.  I had a great year and was really happy with my final evaluation.

We all grew so much this year and, strangely, we're already looking forward to next year!

Monday, April 30

Maxwell on "When Jesus Comes"

Another unique view of the world from Maxwell

"When Jesus comes back from heaven, I think we should go to the beach.  We can jump waves with Jesus."

I love that he thinks of Jesus as someone who would want to spend time with him doing things he enjoys and having fun with him.  He doesn't think of Jesus as someone "above" spending time with children or someone with an agenda.  More people should think of Jesus this way.

Thursday, April 12

The Raw Deal: Four Days of Eating "Raw"

It started with just a hypothetical question; "Could you 'go raw'?"  I didn't know.  Maybe?  It really depended on how strict the "rules" were.

I did a bit of research and found that eating only raw foods was pretty strict.  You could eat as much raw fruits & vegetables as you could handle, adding in raw nuts and seeds (not roasted) - including raw peanut butter. "Eating raw" usually means you could have beans, as long as they were soaked, not cooked.  And oatmeal heated in warm water, but not boiling water.  To drink, most of the resources I used listed only water, 100% juices (preferably made yourself) and lukewarm tea. (I did cheat by having canned beans which are cooked. And store bought hummus.)

After the research, the conversation started again...could I do it?  I did want to jumpstart some weight loss.  I have a wedding I'm standing up in this June...and that looming half-marathon in October.  It couldn't hurt, right?  My friend told me then that she didn't think I'd make it three days.  Oh, don't challenge me!  I told her not only could I do the three days, but I could do four.  And then reality set it.  HA! What did I get myself into?

I scheduled my "cleanse" for during spring break.  It seemed like the easiest time as I didn't have to worry about our schedules so much.  I began on a Monday.  That first day wasn't so rough.  I took my son to the zoo where we ate a packed lunch from home and I ate salad for dinner...a normal day really.  Being a vegetarian already just one day wasn't too much of a stretch.  I did have a craving for some sweets and carbs, but I managed to not succumb to my temptations.

Day two was a bit rougher, but manageable. I did learn how to make a mean smoothie though! I realized how much I looked for "quick fixes" when I was hungry.  I was used to just grabbing some crackers or granola bars - neither of which are raw foods.  I found some comfort in celery and carrots with salt and hummus.

By this point I was eating about every hour.  Most "Raw Food Experts" will tell you to eat about 1-1.5 POUNDS of fruit and vegetables EACH throughout the day.  I wasn't meeting this goal.  I found that I felt full after eating just a few handfuls of veggies.  I did drink a lot of water though!

Day three was hard.  We had planned some activities which meant I needed to take snacks and lunch with me.  The activities were slow paced exercise and I did find myself getting a bit tired and at one point dizzy.  I realized I really needed to eat something, but once I did everything felt fine again.  As long as I was eating regularly I found that I had a lot of energy.  I was also sleeping well at night which isn't always true for me.

The fourth day was by far the hardest.  My husband and I planned an impromptu overnight trip without our boys which meant eating out all day.  Breakfast at Bob Evans was a fruit plate, minus the yogurt.  Lunch was  at a pub and was a salad with no dressing (nothing raw).  Dinner was in a tiny town where they apparently don't have vegetables other than lettuce.  We went out to dinner and I ordered a salad.  I got a HUGE bowl of lettuce.  That's it.  Just lettuce.

Overall, the "diet" wasn't too rough.  I had a lot of encouragement from my husband and friends (Thanks, Jon Lamb!).  Having the support made it easier.  The hardest part was eating meals out and having to plan ahead for meals.  And no carbs.  I would have killed someone for popcorn on day three! This would have been a LOT easier in the summer where there were more fruit and vegetables available locally.

But, the "cleanse" was more than just a physical cleanse.  It was a mental cleanse.  I now realize what I put into my body more than I have before.  I am aware that a little sweet treat just isn't worth it.  I can get the same sweet taste from an orange.  Or when I do have a treat, I'm more aware of the amount I eat.  During my four raw days I lost around six pounds.  That was pretty impressive in my opinion.  But even since my last raw day, I noticed a few of my days leaning more towards the raw foods than I would have before.  I have lost 10 pounds in about 10 days.

Will the pounds stay off? I hope so.  But more than the weight staying off, it's jump started something in my brain.  I'm aware.  I'm more conscious of my food choices.  And I actually enjoy fruits & vegetables more than before.  I just want to be able to eat them cooked once in awhile. ;)